Change Blindness | Selective Attention (squirrel!)





"In visual perceptionchange blindness is a normal phenomenon of the brain which show in light that the brain does not have a precise representation of the world but a lacunar (holes, gaps) one, made of partial details. Despite the name, this phenomenon does not affect the eyes but the brain, and as such is bound to happen to all the human senses. This phenomenon is still in research, but results suggests that the brain estimates the importance and usefulness of informations prior to deciding to store them or not. Another issue is that the brain cannot see a change happening to an element that it has not yet stored." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Change_blindness






I was reading about this in a book "Conversations on Consciousness." and didn't know what it was - so I looked it up. 


I have thought about it before but I didn't know there was a name for it. I take it as being something like an 'error or a skip' while the brain is "buffering" or taking in new information. If you were looking at a screen and it kept showing the same image in succession and then suddenly made a slight change, it might not be perceived. Or if you walked out of a room, then someone moved something, then you walk back in, depending on YOU and what was changed - you might not even notice it. I think this could be the reason we lose out keys and remote controls so often. Our minds/ aren't putting much importance on it and it doesn't get "coded" into our memories. 


Its interesting that as I was reading the article on Wikipedia about change blindness I was thinking to myself that some people would probably be less affected by it than others, specifically someone with autism. People with autism are better with small details and parts of things instead of whole things or large concepts.It also reminded me of an autistic guy who was on "Ingenious minds" that stared forward while an image was being passed in front of him and unlike a normal person - didn't track it, or follow it with his eyes. He is a pin ball machine champion and it seemed that his autism helped him be so good because he would take in the whole 'scene' of the pin ball machine as a whole instead of following the ball specifically. 

If you are reading this sentence, you are mostly going from word to word specifically and taking each one in to make a whole paragraph - while he (and others(usually autistic)) are able to take in a larger chunk of information at once - being able to read whole paragraphs at a time instead of words at a time.  This is a huge interest of mine and there will be a whole chapter about it in my re-write titled "Stage." It's something i've been thinking about a lot and  seems to be most closely related to: the Cartesian Theater which again is something i've been thinking about but didn't know there was a name for. I guess it's a good thing when something i've thought was an original idea ends up being shared, right?


"The Cartesian theater is a derisive term coined by philosopher Daniel Dennett to pointedly refer to a defining aspect of what he calls Cartesian materialism, which he considers to be the often unacknowledged remnants of Cartesian dualism in modern materialistic theories of the mind.
Descartes originally claimed that consciousness requires an immaterial soul, which interacts with the body via the pineal gland of the brain. Dennett says that, when the dualism is removed, what remains of Descartes' original model amounts to imagining a tiny theater in the brain where a homunculus (small person), now physical, performs the task of observing all the sensory data projected on a screen at a particular instant, making the decisions and sending out commands. (cf the Homunculus argument).
The term Cartesian Theater was brought up in the context of the Multiple Drafts Model that Dennett posits in Consciousness Explained (1991):
Cartesian materialism is the view that there is a crucial finish line or boundary somewhere in the brain, marking a place where the order of arrival equals the order of "presentation" in experience because what happens there is what you are conscious of. [...] Many theorists would insist that they have explicitly rejected such an obviously bad idea. But [...] the persuasive imagery of the Cartesian Theater keeps coming back to haunt us — laypeople and scientists alike — even after its ghostly dualism has been denounced and exorcized.
—Daniel Dennett, Consciousness Explained"

It's essentially like the movie http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Being_John_Malkovich Being John Malkovich, which is about going into someone else's brain and playing around as if you are them, but you are experiencing it as if you are still you - but inside their head and seeing it like it's a movie, but an interactive one.

Whenever I stop and think about my own consciousness and stay still and try to imagine what's really going on, it seems most like that. That there is another me, inside of me, that separate from me, but still me. It goes from that, to forgetting that - and being totally connected to my physical body and back again. Tis' complicated and gets stranger the more you consider it. It gets compounded when I lucid dream, which is happening more and more lately but thats a WHOLE other (yet related) subject.


 This could also be one of the reasons that they say that autistic people perceive the world differently than others without autism. When I got to the end of the article I noticed:


"It has been suggested that individuals with autism have atypical attentional control, possibly leading them to be unable to filter out extraneous stimuli, which would make them less prone to change blindness. In a recent study, when shown a short film with inconsistencies the autistic children were more likely to notice inconsistencies than typically developing children. (Smith & Milne)"


Of course each individual with and without autism would be slightly different and it would depend on the situation and what was being considered (the level of interest) it's interesting to think about how and why someone with autism would be different from someone without. I notice with me personally that I"ll notice things that other people don't even seem to see - sometimes even when pointed out. It's like they "Don't get it" or that they dont realize it's significance. An example of the attention to detail I notice is with cars. If there is a new and only slightly refreshed model out - I will instantly be drawn to the change. My brain just automatically perceives the difference. The same can happen with body kits and other custom modifications. But most curiously is what happens when I see a car with a fairly big dent or damage. Even if I see a car out of the corner of my eye, my mind will recognize it at a level that instantly realizes there is something different about it. I'll have to check it out and a lot of times i'll be confused and wonder if it's a body kit, or a new model - but then after I look closer i'll realize that it's just a dent in the fender that made it seem so different. 


Then there are other things that avoid my attention. I went out to my car once a few months ago and everything from the glove compartment and center consul was spread all over. It seemed to take me a LOT longer to figure out that someone was looking for something to steal than it would for me to notice a dent in a car i've never seen before. I find that strange and it seems to relate to what I expect to see, and the level of interest thats placed on certain things. 


My mom has never been able to figure out how I can just "not notice" something. I'll leave a piece of trash on the floor for months and it just doesn't register to me. But then if I know i'm suppose to clean, I can notice things in such a different fashion as if i'm seeing the house as never before even though it hasn't changed. Only my perception or focus has changed. I think this relates to change blindness and autism and agree it could be a dimension of what makes someone autistic. 


As a writer this can be very frustrating because editing and errors are very difficult for me to notice. Why? Because I don't care that much and Its even harder to convince myself to care. I can literally read something a dozen time and not notice a glaring error, and other times it seems like every sentence itself is an error. It makes it very hard to edit and accounts for the time it's taken me to "finish" my book. In essence, it's done. My rough draft has almost everything I want to say in it, but it's a mess. Depending on the level of finesse  and sophistication I expect from myself at any particular time, I can read the same paragraph and think it's great, to thinking that someone else will think it's complete gibberish.



"Inattentional blindness, also known as perceptual blindness, is the phenomenon of not being able to perceive things that are in plain sight. It is caused by an absence of attention to the unseen object and is clear evidence of the importance of attention for perceiving. Without attention we are as if functionally blind. It is closely related to change blindness, which refers to our inability to perceive changes to features in scenes to which we are not attending. It is also related to the Attentional Blink, a phenomenon which occurs when we are searching for two particular target items in a rapidly presented list of items. We often fail to perceive the second target if it occurs between 150 and 400 msec after the first. This also is due to our failure to attend to the second target while attention is absorbed by the first one."


"NASA conducted an experiment in a flight simulator in which commercial pilots were tested to see if they would notice distractions on a runway during simulated landings.[2] Those who were trained pilots did not notice and landed directly on top of the distraction 1/4 of the time, while untrained pilots didn't know what to expect of a typical landing and thus saw the distraction"





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